Although a large part of the population is dependent on agriculture, Gabon’s natural resources (mainly oil, manganese and uranium) are the most influential factors in the economy. The exploitation of oil, uranium and manganese deposits as well as rainforests has led to rapid economic growth. However, fluctuating world market prices of oil in particular have meant that growth periods have been replaced by recession and stagnation periods. However, the country’s financial resources are unevenly distributed, which ties otherwise led to domestic political unrest during the 1990s.
According to COUNTRYAAH, agricultural production has been stagnant or declining for a long time. A large part (about 50 percent) of the country’s working population is employed in self-sustaining agriculture. However, the state has in recent years tried to stimulate agriculture to reduce dependence on imported food (about half of the food is imported). Lack of land (only 0.5 percent of land area is cultivated), poor infrastructure and labor shortage (by moving from the countryside in some areas) pose problems for agriculture. The most significant export crops are cocoa, coffee and oil palm products. The most important food crops are cassava, jams and corn.
About 3/4 of Gabon’s area is covered with forest, mostly rainforest. Prior to the discovery and extraction of oil and mining minerals in the early 1960s, the economy was almost entirely dominated by forestry. The felled volume has again increased after a decline in the 1980s. Reduced production in competing countries (mainly in Southeast Asia) and devaluation of the domestic currency in 1994 have further strengthened the forest industry’s opportunities in the international market. The country’s exports are dominated by raw timber, mainly gabon, which is used, among other things, in furniture manufacturing.
Minerals and energy
Oil, mined since 1956, is the country’s most important export commodity. The country is the ninth largest oil producer in Africa; In 2010, oil exports accounted for 70 percent of total export value and 50 percent of GDP. The majority of the oil is extracted on the continental shelf outside Port-Gentil.
Manganese has been mined since 1962 and is the country’s third largest export product. Gabon is estimated to have 7 percent of the world’s known reserves, and the majority is in the deposit at Mouanana near the city of Moanda, about 50 km northwest of Masuku. The uranium, which began to be mined in 1958, is the country’s fourth largest export commodity. The largest deposit is also found at Mouanana. Smaller deposits of lead, zinc and phosphate are also available. At Belinga, in northeast Gabon, there is also one of the world’s largest iron ore deposits.
The country has a large hydropower potential, which is partly already being developed, and plans for further expansion are in place.
Gabon has a limited manufacturing industry, which is essentially the so-called import substitution industry. The emphasis is on the export industry in the form of timber handling, oil refining (in Port-Gentil) and the production of mineral concentrates. The main problem for future industrial development in the country is too small a market. Therefore, to develop the sector, the country relies on markets throughout the Central African Customs and Trade Union (UDEAC), of which Gabon is a member.
- According to AllCityPopulation, the capital city of Gabon is Libreville with a population of 834 200 (UN estimate 2020). Other major cities include Port Gentil with a population of 136 500, Masuku (Franceville) with a population of 110 600 (Census 2013).
Gabon has since enjoyed a positive trade balance. However, the large dependence on oil exports (in 2016, oil accounted for about 80 percent of export revenues), however, makes the country sensitive to price fluctuations in the world market. In addition to oil, manganese, timber and uranium are important export goods. Imports are dominated by machinery, machinery and food. Important trading partners are France, the US and China.